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Photo by Dan Medhurst

A few years back, while on time off from a study abroad period in Morocco, I was able to attend MS Dockville, a smallish festival in Hamburg featuring the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, Holy Other and Michachu and the Shapes. Having only attended American festivals to that point, my opinion of music festivals was bleak to say the least, literal fights for space and air in what could easily be described as gigantic cesspools of humanity. MS Dockville was a welcome reprieve from the glut and general decrepitude of the American festival, both in terms of programming and general respect on the part of attendees. There was no more space at the festival grounds in Hamburg than a midsize US soiree, but the way attendees interacted with the music and each other gave the whole event a neat, cozy overtone.

Since that weekend, I’ve been aching to return to a European festival and when a friend proffered the idea of making the trip to Pula, Croatia for Outlook Festival, the soundsystem culture-focused event happening across five days in an Austro-Hungarian fort on the Adriatic Sea, the opportunity was almost too good to pass up. The legend of Outlook and Fort Punta Christo runs deep and feasting on the lineup, especially names like Boy Better Know and Kromestar that us Americans can only dream of seeing on normal terms, became a regular activity in the months and weeks before the festival, the anticipation becoming almost overwhelming as we began our 30 hour jaunt across ocean and land to reach the small coastal city.

Looking back now, a week after Outlook’s world class soundsystems finally shut down, it’s hard to imagine we were on a beach watching Hatcha and DJ EZ play out classic-laden sets or at the festival’s unmatched Moat stage brucking out as Acre and Mumdance shook down the entire Fort at the Tectonic 10 party. And more than any individual set, the opportunity to attend a festival with near-total support for its modus operandi. In short, most of the people at this year’s festival were there because of their dedication to soundsystem culture and/or its various modern forms. With a few exceptions at the top of the bill, Outlook’s lineup was composed of labels, parties and artists outside of the general public eye, meaning the likes of Amy Becker, Parris and DJ Milktray having the opportunity to lay down high energy sets in front of huge, adoring crowds.

Hit the jump for a full run down of The Astral Plane team’s experience at Outlook Festival in Pula, Croatia…

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For years, Martin Clark aka Blackdown Soundboy’s blogspot address has functioned as both a central point for some of the most current, self-defining journalism in dance music and a treasure trove of garage, grime, dubstep (and beyond) history, including mixes, interviews and retrospectives on the scene’s seminal nights, conflicts and successes. For me, the site has offered a pin prick camera view into the demise of late 1990s garage, the rise of dubstep and the proliferation of grime. It offered a gateway into the spread, mutation and peculiarities of the music I now hold close to my heart and which, at the time, I was unable to connect with due to age, geography and a shit modem connection. Recurring characters like Skream, Kode9 and DJ Target have become familiar, despite the fact that the majority of the articles were written five-plus years ago. Today marks the 10th anniversary of the site, which will hopefully continue to function as an unofficial register of 2000s ‘nuum culture for years to come, and Clark has uploaded an absolute classic of a mix from FWD>> (@ Plastic People) featuring Mala b2b Loefah and the inimitable SFT Pokes on mic duties.

Having never been to Plastic People, attended a FWD>> night, or step foot in East London, it’s difficult to gage exactly what Clark means when he refers to this set as the “best live dubstep set I’ve ever heard recorded,” but despite the inherent cognitive dissonance of listening to a set so firmly set in a specific temporal realm, its eminence is as easily recognizable as any other “scene defining” mix, song, album or live performance. Clark included his own version of live blogging to round out the 10th anniversary celebration, offering up memories, commentary and context to Mala & Loefah’s selections. If you’re not familiar with Clark, Blackdown Soundboy or the label, Keysound Recordings, he runs in tandem with Dusk, cut a few hours from your day and browse back through the annals of the Blackdown Soundboy blogspot.

Download: Mala b2b Loefah ft SGT Pokes live at FWD>> 01.06.06